Customer Information 2 : Frames

Framing has two main purposes:

What style of frame do I need?

This is often  a matter of personal taste. You will want the frame to go with your decor and you will also want it to compliment your picture without clashing with either or overwhelming the picture.

There is really only one golden rule when selecting a frame:  A modern print can look good in an old style frame, but a classical painting  (think old master: Vermeer, Constable, Victorian seascape...  etc) is certain to look as awful in a modern aluminium or white painted wood box frame, or a 70s style hessian-faced float frame with plastic gold corners as it is in a half inc wide black frame that is more suitable for a certificate. 

Whilst many prints from impressionists (eg. Monet) can look great in either a modern frame or a classic frame.  Old engravings or maps may want a classic narrow plain frame, a plain narrow gilt, or perhaps a classic Hogarth frame (named after Hogarth the artist, who is reputed to have made his own frames in this style are usually black, 12 to 25mm wide, with gilt castellated edgings).  Van Gough or Dali prints can look great in an ornate swept gilt frame, or a modern plain timber frame, for many people it is a matter of personal choice. You can choose from the classic and restrained, to modern or weird and wacky, metal, timbers, plastic or aluminium, hand finishes, distressed, polished, gilded etc. Have a look at the frames on our web site shop counter and framing ideas pages to get an idea of the huge choice available today.

For certificates it is accepted that a plain narrow frame in a classic style that does not date is always the best suggestion. Certificates often look good in a plain narrow black, or aluminium or a narrow Hogarth type frame. These are also inexpensive, available off the shelf or custom made.  There is nothing wrong with showing off your qualifications like we do at our framing shop counter (after all, that's what certificates are for) but there is a difference between showing off your qualifications, and simply showing off. Don't overwhelm your certificates with over the top framing. You worked hard to earn them, let them stand out for themselves. 

Photos are also  frequently framed in simple frames, often with wide plain mounts to best effect.

Do I need glass on a framed oil painting?

The National Gallery glaze their paintings to protect them, so there is no correct "yes or no" answer. It often boils down to common sense or personal taste - If you need your original oil protected from the environment or dust (open fires, cigarette smoke etc), then have glass, or you will be looking at a regular restoration/cleaning bill every couple of years, on an average sized oil this can cost you anything from 60 to 200 or more each time the restorer does his work The glass on an oil painting MUST be held off the picture with a spacer (or "slip"). UV and conservation glass or museum glass is an option, or for safety styrene acrylic glazing.

Based on articles by Moonshine Framing  Moonshine Framing

Do I need a Mount? see here, Mount FAQs


The Tulipwood we use is forested in America and is also known as Poplar.  It has a silky texture with some light grain. It is generally creamy in colour.

Limewood  has a silky texture, and comes from Eastern Europe.

Obeche/Wawa/Ayous comes from Africa, hardly any grain, slightly creamy in colour.

American Ash has a very slightly pinky grain which can vary from tightly packed to very open.

American Oak is very similar to English Oak but lighter in colour.

The pine we use is forested in Sweden or Russia. The amount of knots in a tree can vary, sometimes to all intents and purposes knot free, sometimes a knot every 25cm or so.


Choosing the right quality of frame
You may think you want the cheapest frame but remember that low-cost picture framing can actually damage your picture. Some art should be protected for future generations.
Our professional framers will be able to advise you on the appropriate type of framing choices for your artwork - and will know how to make even a modestly priced print look its best

Out of the light
Try not to hang pictures directly opposite large windows as sunlight fades colours and discolours paper. Special UV-coated glass can help to slow this down.  Ask us about the ways in which you can preserve your artwork for the long-term.

Avoid heat

Ideally pictures should not be hung above radiators. Extreme or rapid changes in temperature cause paper and wood to warp and dry out and adhesives to fail

Beware damp
Damp can cause pictures to ripple. If the ripples touch the glass, the picture might stick and be hard to remove. Damp also encourages fungal growth - likely to show as brown stains or mould. Conservation framing can slow these effects, but it is always best to avoid hanging framed pictures in humid conditions. Allow six months before hanging pictures on newly plastered walls. Pictures hung on newly plastered walls will soon show evidence of mould or damp on the frame backs nine times out of ten. Spores are in the atmosphere all the time.  We often  recommend Art-Bak aqua or Corricor 3 type frame backings which have an "aqua-proof" back, to help keep moisture from the frame. The frame does still need to "breath", trapped stale air is not good from a conservation point of view, so the dust seal we fit (the brown tape you see) keeps dust, bugs and contaminants out, and still allows the frame to breath.

Eye-level display
Remember most pictures are designed to be viewed at eye-level. When hanging a group of pictures of different sizes align the top edges. Groups of pictures need not be hung in symmetrical patterns, but they should follow some sort of overall design. Try arranging them on the floor first.

Hang securely
Use two hooks on the wall, each set about a quarter of the way in from either side of the picture. Check that the cord, wire or other hanger you use is designed to support the weight of your artwork. Where safety is critical, in children's bedrooms, for example, ask us for styrene safety acrylic glazing.

A gentle clean
Dust frames or treat with a soft brush, rather than risk applying water or cleaning fluids. Don't use cleaning fluids or water on the varnished surface of oil paintings; again dust carefully. If cleaning fluids have to be used on the glass, apply them to a duster first (rather than spraying the glass directly); take care not to let the fluids touch the frame.

Handle with care
When carrying and transporting a picture, grasp the frame firmly on both sides. If you have to store pictures, make sure they are stacked vertically and the right way up. When stacking pictures, stand them 'glass to glass' so that the hangers do not damage the frames.

Regular checks
If you find any evidence of discolouration, unsightly brown dots, small insects under the glass or that the brown paper tape sealing the back of the frame has come unstuck, return the frame to the framer for advice.  At Moonshine we use the services of a specialist restorer, Mr Warren Fisher,. and if any restoration work is required we will always get a firm price quote for you before restoration commences.

Check for corroding picture wire or weak or loosening cord. We use nylon picture cord as standard.  Locally, in our sea-air environment of West Cornwall corrosion is a particular problem. Some picture wires are brass or have a brass finish, with a steel core, coupled with the salt air and hanging on a steel or other metal hook or screw the electrolytic action encourages accelerated corrosion.  This is not an issue in many other locations, but is worth bearing in mind.

The varnish on oil paintings will gradually discolour, especially if the picture hangs in smoky or polluted conditions. It should be replaced as it dirties. Oil paintings stretched over wooden bars may sag over time and the bars can make a slight imprint on the front of the canvas. Take the picture back to your framer for tightening or re-stretching. The Fine Art Trade Guild recommends inspection every five years.

based on and with acknowledgement to fine art trade guild

some items, like this  customer's papyrus from an Egyptian holiday, have uneven edges. It is  usually preferred to show these edges  which make the pieces unique rather than hide them behind a mount

General framing and mounting issues

The environment affects a frame  Most parts of a picture (the frame, the artwork itself, the backing, liner and the mount) can expand and contract slightly with changes in temperature and humidity. They may expand at very different rates, so when we make a frame we leave a recommended clearance to allow for this movement. This is the main reason why you should never attach your picture to a mount all the way round because it WILL make it warp, cockle or ripple.  Many photographers, artists and amateur framers ignore this, causing a lot of problems for the galleries reselling their product, and customers. It spoils the picture, devalues the artwork and can be extremely difficult to rectify even in fully equipped professional framing workshop. If you have ordered a custom frame, or bought a standard size from Moonshine Framing, you may find that it is a millimetre or two "oversize" - this is intentional, and good framing practice which allows for natural movement.

Defects or "character"?  On frames in cheaper timbers (eg. Pine) the mitres (corners) can open and close very quickly depending on the temperature, humidity and atmospheric conditions. Whilst we do follow best practice and both glue and pin corners, please bear in mind that there is a huge force  when wood expands - they were splitting rocks with small damp wooden wedges for the Pyramids, and even do so today in some quarries in Britain, so even modern day adhesives will give way.  We try and use more suitable timber for wider frames, including Obeche, Limewood, Ash or Tulipwood. When we do use pine mouldings, these are supplied seasoned, and whenever possible we rack and store them dry for several days or weeks at room temperature before use.

Problems out of the framers control

Cockling and rippling  Paper, and other flat mediums are natural products and are affected by humidity/temperature etc.  Slight cockling is seen by many, including a large part of the art establishment, as part of the charm and character of  much original artwork (watercolours etc) Unfortunately many fine art prints will cockle for no obvious reason, it does not usually affect the value much, only the appearance. Many remedies such as irreversible dry mounting will devalue the artwork. Good liners and backing boards and properly mounted artwork will help. (also see above: The environment affects a frame, and our Mounts FAQ page)

The back of the print Many photographers (and one or two fine art publishers who have been in the business since the 19th century and ought to know better) attach stickers or bar-codes directly to the back of their prints.  This is an issue because the glue and solvents in these stickers will soak into the paper and eventually come through.  Removing them can sometimes cause problems. Most framers will not attempt removal, and only then with the express consent of the customer. The publishers do it for stock control and efficiency with distribution, photographers tend to do it to assert and remind buyers of the copyright, even though the sticker is hidden forever once the photo is framed.... but the overall effect is the same - it puts in place an element of damage which can only get worse over time.  So if you are a photographer, please think twice before putting a big self adhesive sticker in the middle on the back of your photo. Better still, supply it loose, or  enclose a business card,  and  when the customer brings your photo for framing the framer will place your details on the back of the finished frame, where it belongs and where the customer can see it!

Signatures  A signed print, picture or original will often be signed. Unfortunately the artists frequently sign these right on the very edge, where it will be partially or completely obscured by the frame rebate (which can be anything from 5mm up to 10 or 12 mm on older style frames) or by the necessary overlap of the mount. We don't know when they stopped teaching the wrongs of  this practice at art college and in practical art textbooks, but the customer wants to see the signature, they have bought an original, and the signature is part of it. so any artists reading this please pay attention - sign at least 15mm away from any edge!

Signing the mount rather than the print is particularly popular with many photographers. Almost all framers roll their eyes at this practice, its merely because of the inconvenience of having to split the framing job into two stages, make the mounts, then store them somewhere and wait for the photographer or artist to come in and sign it before they can finish the work, this usually involves a long process of standing in the shop, sharpening pencils and signing individually with mounts stacked here there and everywhere.  It is preferred to sign art prints, rather than their mounts. Photograph mounts, if signed are conventionally signed with pencil. If the photograph itself is signed, nowadays they are generally signed with a permanent black or silver ink, or photo-pen. Some photographers use CD/DVD markers to sign directly onto the photograph.

If you buy a photograph or print in a signed mount, please try and keep the wrapping on it (it ought to be protected with a gallery sleeve or cellophane wrap) because if the mount becomes damaged or marked, the framer cannot reproduce the signature if he needs to reproduce the mount! 

Framers stickers on the backs of frames. It is a requirement for Fine Art Trade Guild members to attach their own sticker or stamp to the back of framing jobs. It is good practice for any framer to do this.  This identifies the framer, and shows that they are putting their name to the work and taking responsibility for it should there be any problem in the future. 

Sometimes trade customers request that stickers are not put on - this is most frequently artists or photographers selling their prints.  Presumably this is because they do not want the "competition" to know where they have their mounts or frames made, or maybe they even wish to pass off the framing or mounting as their own work, but it is actually very counterproductive. In our own shop we are asked by customers almost on a daily basis where they can get a print by artist X or photographer Y, as they have been given one as a gift, or bought one, and want to buy more, and the artist has moved, the reseller is out of stock, the artist has changed phone number or website URL, or simply gone on holiday. The chances are we can put the retail customer in touch with our artist or a reseller whom the artist supplies, and the result is a happy customer and another sale for the artist. We are always happy to do this, because the more prints our trade customers sell, the more mounts and frames we sell to them later! 

If you are an artist and a customer buys your unframed print from a shop or gallery you sell through, and wants to match it with one of your framed prints they already own, they will need to know where to get the frame. If they don't think they can match the frame, or thinks it will be a pain to trudge round half a dozen places to find one, you may lose that sale.  If a customer breaks the glass, they also need to take it (if possible) back to the picture framer who made it so that it can be repaired with the same type of glazing, and finished and sealed to match.  There are several different frame-back fixing methods, and several different tools to remove some of them without causing damage. Most framers keep only the special tools to remove the type of fittings they use regularly, and whilst any framer will generally be very happy to repair his own work, when he has to repair someone elses frame, but he does not know what multitude of misery he may find inside!  We make frames to a suitable standard defined by the fine art trade guild, so we have a good idea what will be in one of ours frame (or any other  guild framers), and so we can price it accordingly and take a repair job without much risk or cost to the customer.

If the framer is a member of a professional or approved framing body with obligatory standards, it is also a selling point, confirming the picture framing is to a certain standard and enhancing value and artists credibility because the customer can take it that frame will be finished to a proper standard.  If a trade customer requests that we finish to a lesser standard than specified, we still do the work as requested, but do not affix a sticker.  Without the framers sticker, the framing standard is an unknown, and there are no guarantees that the work in the frame conforms to any standard at all, and may in fact just be done to meet  the lowest price without any other consideration.

Moonshine Framing

Based on articles by Moonshine Framing  Moonshine Framing

images Moonshine Framing